Today marks “World Contraception Day.” According to the World Health Organization, or WHO, the purpose of creating this day was to promote the rights of couples and individuals to make decisions about pregnancies.
As of 2021, WHO found that using contraception may have reduced maternal mortality by 40%. However, students find that many of these methods, such as condoms, birth control and intrauterine devices (IUDs) are not taught in depth or at all in high school sexual education.
“(It was) mostly abstinence,” journalism sophomore Ava Zanglin said. “We never talked about birth control, rarely touched on condoms and didn't really talk about other options with that stuff. It was just absence.”
Zanglin, like many other people her age, had to look elsewhere to learn about contraception. While she turned to her mother and doctor for these lessons, acting and journalism sophomore Anna Yarnal found them through social media.
“I feel like (my sex ed class) was very brief,” Yarnal said. “They touch on it, but they mainly talk more about STDs and stuff like that rather than basic protection. But other than that, I feel like there's so many options and they just briefly touched on every little thing.”
Zanglin said she thinks people are scared to talk about contraception because it is a touchy subject, but that not teaching about contraception won’t prevent students from having sex.
“They're going to do it regardless,” Zanglin said. “I think it's something that needs to be talked about. Need to talk about STDs, contraceptives, your other options, what to do if (a pregnancy) happens – everything.”
Digital storytelling junior Will Bauhs said that his high school in Chicago had a unit in his health class that touched on sex ed, and they covered many contraceptive methods. While this unit was just a smaller portion of the class, he said he thinks it was a smart decision to teach about contraception.
“I mean you can teach abstinence too, that’s fine, but teach everything else too,” Bauhs said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of school you are, just make sure everyone knows everything.”
Since the overturning of Roe v Wade in June, many pro-choice organizations have reinforced the need for easily accessible contraception. Zanglin said that this has also brought people’s opinions on contraception to the surface.
“I didn't know that it was such a controversial thing,” Zanglin said. “I thought, obviously, abortion is controversial and always has been and probably always will be, but I didn't know contraceptives were offensive to people's religion or something that people were against … I don't know if people's opinions have ever changed, I think they're just sort of coming to light now.”
Rights to contraception have also come into question since the overturning of Roe v Wade. The 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut ruling, which overruled a law prohibiting couples from using birth control, came into question after Justice Clarence Thomas called on the court to reconsider it.
“I feel like a lot of people are almost like scared because their (contraceptive rights are) being taken away,” Yarnal said. “I think that they don't realize how many ways that birth control helps people. So, I feel like when people start talking about contraceptives, I think there's kind of like a fear now just because it's just scary. You don't know if you can actually get them, and you don't know how long you have to get them before they're going to be taken away.”
Bauhs said that since the ruling, his opinion on the importance of contraception has not changed.
“I feel like more and more people are starting to realize how important it actually is and how relevant it is, now that it's becoming a more valid issue,” Bauhs said. “I always found them to be really important part of that, but I definitely feel like more people are starting to realize how important they are.”
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